Modifications to a Thornton Windlass

Copyright 2012 by James P. Riser

To make a Thornton Windlass more versatile, the following modifications were done.

An oddity of the Thornton Windlass has always been how it was to be attached to things using a small square of cloth and safety pins. The goal with this project was to make a Thornton Windlass a more useable tool for a working pro.

A copper backing plate was fabricated.


As was done on my Thornton Windlass once owned by Al DeLage, a small spring was soldered onto the reel body to cushion the stopping of the reel. This spring is mounted at a tangent to the internal drum to prevent thread wear. This spring will help avoid thread breakage and internal reel damage. Letting the thread free fly back into the reel can break the reel - especially the newer versions.



Notice the three connecting loops. I wanted to mount the Thornton to this back plate without damaging the original reel in case an "undo" might be desired in the future.

This is how the plate fits the back of the Thornton Windlass.


The belt loops were bent to allow clearance.


Here is the plate in the final position.


Wire was threaded through the reel loops.


The completed wire threading looked like this.


The wire was covered with leather.


The completed modifications will allow the Thornton Windlass to be worn on a belt on either the right or left side of the performer's body.

The front view.


The back view.